"Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware...To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory. She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon."

Grantly Dick-Read

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

positions for labor

(me during my second labor, dilated to 5 cm, in a hands and knees position with my husband doing counter pressure on my back)

preparing yourself mentally for labor is just as important as preparing yourself physically. knowing what positions to use for pain relief during labor are key to finding comfort or at least, tolerance, during contractions.

i have personal experience from using upright labor positions to help during labor verses not using any techniques at all. with my first labor, i labored on my side in bed (that is what was comfortable and relaxing to me) up until i started active labor (about 5-6 centimeters dilated). at that point, i just couldn't cope with the pain anymore and couldn't find any ways to relieve it. that is because i wasn't educated on what positions to try during labor...or even if i did know about them, i guess i just didn't even think to try them! (that is why having good labor support is key...to help you remember what you do already know!) i ended up getting an epidural about an hour and a half after arriving at the hospital because i simply couldn't handle the pain anymore - however, i believe fully if i would have tried different positions that i would have been able to stick with my goal of giving birth naturally. (sitting in the hospital bed is probably the LEAST comfortable birth position...probably why most women choose to receive an epidural! i know...i've been there!)

with my second labor, i was much more prepared and labored in a variety of different positions, hands and knees being my favorite. my husband put counter pressure on my back, stroked my hair, or lightly rubbed my back. at times i remained standing, and leaned over onto the back of the couch, breathing deeply and slowly through a contraction. these positions helped my labor to be much, much more bearable than my first. there was only about 20-30 minutes at the end where i really felt like the pain was getting hard to cope with, other than that, by using different positions, i found great pain relief during my labor.

research shows that upright positions shorten the first stage of labor. they also reduce pain and speed birth. a study showed that women who labored upright during the early stages were 17% less likely to seek pain relief through epidural anesthesia.

see the articles here and here.

as the laboring woman, you will find the position that is best for you. your body will guide you to what is comfortable and what helps relieve the pain for you - each body, each baby is different, thus every labor will utilize different positions to ease the discomfort.

here are some effective positions for laboring:
(click on the link to read descriptions of each position)

forward leaning
slow dancing
sitting on a birth ball
sitting on the toilet
all fours and all fours leaning

during my second labor, i used forward leaning, swaying, sitting on a birth ball, and all fours (aka hands and knees). when it came time to deliver my baby, without even thinking, i got into an all fours leaning position which for me, made it extremely easy to push my baby out. she was a big healthy baby that came out in 4 pushes!

there is a great section on the website, giving birth naturally, about labor positions. i highly encourage reading it as it gives a great background on why upright positions are great for labor as well as helping to understand why the positions routinely used in hospitals can be so ineffective (lithotomy and supine positions). find the section here.

what positions did you use during labor to find comfort and pain relief?


  1. Great idea to start a blog about childbirth since it's something you've obviously experienced and something your pationate about. It may seem weird that I'm commenting on the blog but after all my Dad is an OB/GYN so I've been around the topic for a looooooong time :) I'm interested in while you were preparing for your second labor what your were taught or planned for emergencies (e.g., breach, obstruction of birth canal, sudden drop in child or mother vitals etc.)

  2. if the baby was in a breech position, i most likely would have delivered in a hospital by c-section after doing all i could first to get the baby to turn. interestingly enough, in canada they have now said that they recommend breech babies be born vaginally rather than by c-section.

    as for other emergencies, we would have transferred to a hospital as soon as anything arose. the midwives monitored the baby and i every 10-15 minutes and if they saw any cause for concern, they would have recommended a transfer.

    they are also trained in the case that an emergency were to arise and they have several ways to deal with things like nuchal cord (wrapped around babies neck), shoulder dystocia, etc. the only thing they don't have available is an OR, but often if an OR is truly needed, there are warning signs before hand.

    thanks for your comment!

  3. This is such a great idea! I love what you've had to say so far. I find it interesting that one of the suggested positions is slow dancing. I've considered going natural for my next labor, but I'm still unsure. I think I'll really enjoy reading this blog. Thanks for starting it. I know you'll have great things to say because of how in tune you are to motherhood and because you've experienced labor both ways.

  4. This is such a great idea for a blog...I will try to start birthing with confidence! :) (Love you hun!)

  5. My friend had a breach baby via midwife at home when you could still have a home birth in this state (She's Amish). She had three other home births...and said nothing has ever hurt as bad as trying to push that breach son out. I saw her break two ribs once, she is a tough lady so I know she is not being light. She grabbed her husband around the neck as hard as she could, bore down, and screamed into his face until she managed to get Daniel out. There is no way I'd be willing to try that one!

  6. I was standing up and moving around the room a bit and then when it started getting serious I was leaning forward onto the bed, and that is how my first came into the world. I found those positions got me through without any pain killers etc.
    My second might be a bit different as I found out today I have Strep B so will be attached to a drip.. might have to stay put a bit more... no doing a runner! ;)